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SSI Glossary


Picture of hand turning pages in reference glossary book.This topic provides an explanation of many terms used in conjunction with the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Program administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Note that many of these terms have "see also" links to other topics with additional information.

An additional list of more general Social Security Administration terminology may be found in the Glossary - SSA Terminology topic.

Affidavit of Support

A contract under which a United States citizen or legal resident agrees to provide support to maintain (i.e., to sponsor) an immigrant as a condition of the immigrant's admission into the United States.


Individuals aged 65 or older. See also Full Retirement Age.

Aid--Old-Age Assistance (OAA), Aid to the Blind (AB), and Aid to the Permanently and Totally Disabled (APTD)

The former Federal-State programs of adult cash assistance under Titles I, X, and XVI respectively, that were replaced in the 50 States and the District of Columbia by the SSI program in 1974. These programs still operate in Guam, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico and are administered at the Federal level by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Alien Lawfully Admitted for Permanent Residence

A noncitizen lawfully accorded the privilege of residing permanently in the United States. Such individuals may be issued immigrant visas overseas by the Department of State, or adjusted to permanent resident status while living in the United States by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. (See "Noncitizen.")

Appeal Rights Process

The administrative review process followed by SSA in determining an individual's rights under the Social Security Act. The administrative review process consists of several steps, which must be requested after the unfavorable initial determination within certain time periods and in the following order: (1) reconsideration, (2) hearing before an administrative law judge, and (3) an Appeals Council review. SSA introduced a modification of this process in 10 States for disability applications filed October 1, 1999 and later. Under this revised process appeals of initial disability denials are made directly to the Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA), thereby eliminating the reconsideration step. The options for appeal beyond the OHA level are unchanged. See also Flow Of Cases Through The SSA Disability Process.

Assistance Based on Need

Assistance that is provided by certain programs which use income as a factor of eligibility. The assistance must be funded wholly by a State, a political subdivision of a State, or a combination of such jurisdictions. See also Need-based Income and Assistance - SSI.


A noncitizen already in the United States or at a port-of-entry who is granted asylum in the United States. Asylum may be granted to an individual who is unable or unwilling to return to his/her country of nationality, or to seek the protection of that country, because of persecution (or a well-founded fear of persecution) based on the noncitizen's race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. (See "Noncitizen.")

Attendant Care Services

Services (including personal care assistance) that are paid for from Federal, State or local funds and which are provided by a paid attendant required to assist with work related and/or personal functions. See also Impairment Related Work Expenses.

Automatic Cost-of-Living Increase

The annual increase in SSI Federal benefit rates, effective for January of the current year, reflecting the change in the cost of living. The increase equals the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers measured from the average over July, August, and September of the second preceding year to the average for the same 3 months in the preceding year. If the increase is less than one-tenth of 1 percent, when rounded, there is no automatic increase for the current year; the increase for the next year would reflect the increase in the cost of living over a 2-year period. See also Federal Benefit Rate - SSI.


An administrative determination that an individual is eligible for an SSI benefit. See also SSA Award Letter and Notice of Change.


For purposes of the SSI program, an individual is considered to be blind if he/she has 20/200 or less vision in the better eye with the use of a correcting lens, has tunnel vision of 20 degrees or less, or met the October 1972 State definition of blindness and received benefits under the State's former program of Aid to the Blind in December 1973. See also Blindness.

Blind Work Expenses (BWE)

Any expenses incurred by a blind individual that are reasonably attributable to earning income. The BWE provision permits the exclusion of these expenses from the earned income of a blind individual. (See "Impairment-Related Work Expenses (IRWE)" for the related exclusions for disabled individuals.) See also Blind Work Expenses.

Burial Funds

A comprehensive term that for SSI purposes includes revocable burial contracts, trusts and other burial arrangements (including amounts paid on installment sales contracts for burial spaces), cash, accounts, or other financial instruments with a definite cash value clearly designated for the individual's burial expenses.


A blind or disabled individual who is under age 18.

Comparable Severity

The phrase in the Social Security Act that defined disability for children prior to the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-193). Under prior law, an individual under age 18 would have been considered disabled if he/she had an impairment of comparable severity to that required for individuals 18 or older. See also a description of The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) - Overview topic.

Constant Dollars

Dollar amounts adjusted by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to the value of the dollar in a particular year.

Consultative Examination (CE)

In the absence of sufficient medical evidence from a claimant's own medical sources, SSA, through the State DDS, may request additional examinations. These CEs are performed by physicians (including osteopaths), psychologists or, in certain circumstances, other health professionals. All CE sources must be currently licensed in the State and have the training and experience to perform the type of examination or test SSA requests. Medical professionals who perform CEs must have a good understanding of SSA's disability programs and their evidentiary requirements.

Consumer Price Index (CPI)

Relative measure of inflation. For SSI Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) purposes, all references to the CPI relate to the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W).

Continuing Disability Review (CDR)

An evaluation of an individual's impairment(s) to determine whether the person is still disabled within the meaning of the law for purposes of eligibility for SSI and OASDI benefits. See also Continuing Disability Review.

Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA)

See "Automatic Cost-of-Living Increase."

Countable Income

An individual's income less all-applicable exclusions. This amount is used to determine SSI eligibility and benefit amount. See also Countable Income - SSI.

Countable Resources

The amount of resources after all exclusions. This amount is used in determining an individual's or couple's SSI eligibility. A resource may be cash or other liquid assets or any real or personal property that an individual (or his/her spouse) owns and could convert to cash to be used for support and maintenance. SSI law stipulates what items are to be excluded from resources. See also SSI Resources - Countable Resources.

Current Dollars

Amounts expressed in nominal dollars with no adjustment for inflationary changes in the value of the dollar over time.

Current-Payment Status

Status of an SSI recipient to whom a benefit is being paid for a given month. SSI benefits for a month are usually payable on the first day of that month.

Dedicated Account

An account in a financial institution established for a disabled or blind child to contain retroactive SSI payments that exceed six times the Federal Benefit Rate (FBR) plus State supplementation (certain smaller retroactive payments may be placed in the account once it is established). Funds may be used for:


                        Personal needs assistance,

                        Special equipment or housing modifications,

                        Medical treatment,

                        Therapy or rehabilitation, or

                        Other items or services that the Commissioner deems appropriate--

provided that the expense benefits the child and, in the case of the last four items, is related to the child's impairment. Money from a dedicated account which is misapplied must be repaid. These accounts are excluded from resources and the interest earned is excluded from income.


The process by which the income and resources of an ineligible individual are considered to be available to a recipient when determining eligibility or payment amount. Deeming applies only between:

                        The living-with ineligible spouse and the eligible spouse,

                        The living-with ineligible parent(s) and eligible child(ren) under age 18, and

                        The immigration sponsors of some noncitizens and the noncitizen(s).

See also Deeming - SSI.


For individuals aged 18 or older, the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity (SGA) by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment that can be expected to result in death or that has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months. An individual under age 18 must have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, which results in marked and severe functional limitations and which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months. See also Disability.

Disability Determination Services (DDS)

Federally funded State agencies that make disability determinations for SSA. See also SSA Disability Determination - New Approach, SSA Disability Determination Process, and Flow Of Cases Through The SSA Disability Process.

Disaster Assistance

Assistance from Federal programs and agencies, joint Federal and State programs, State or local government programs, and private organizations (e.g., the Red Cross) provided to victims of a Presidentially declared disaster.

Disposal of Resources for Less Than Fair Market Value

Transferring resources, either liquid, real, or personal property, for less than the resources are worth. See also Resource Limits - SSI.

Earned Income

For SSI purposes, wages, net earnings from self-employment, remuneration for work in a sheltered workshop, royalties on published work, and honoraria for services rendered are considered earned income. The distinction between earned and unearned income is significant because more liberal exclusions are applied to earned income. See also Earned Income - SSI.

Earned Income Exclusion

The first $65 of a recipient's monthly earnings and one-half of the earnings in excess of $65 are excluded in computing the SSI benefit payable. See also SSI Earned Income Exclusion.

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)

A special tax credit that reduces the Federal tax liability of certain low-income working taxpayers. This tax credit may or may not result in a payment to the taxpayer. See also Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

Effective Date of Application

An application for SSI benefits is effective on the first day of the month following the date on which the application is filed, or on which the individual first becomes eligible, whichever is later. See also SSI/DI Application Information.

Eligible Couple

Two persons married and living together in the same household or living together as married, both being aged, blind, or disabled and eligible for SSI. See also Married and Couple on SSI.

Eligible Individual

An aged, blind or disabled person who meets all the requirements for eligibility under the SSI program, including filing an application. See also Supplemental Security Income and Living Alone.

Emergency Advance Payments (EAP)

Special SSI payments that are available only at the time of initial application for eligible individuals who face financial emergencies and need assistance before their first benefits would otherwise be received. The amount of the EAP an individual receives is recovered from subsequent benefit payments.

Federal Benefit Rate (FBR)

The basic standard used in computing the amount of Federal SSI benefits for individuals and couples. The FBRs are increased annually to reflect increases in the cost of living. See also Federal Benefit Rate - SSI.

Fiscal Year (FY)

The accounting year of the United States Government. Since 1976, a fiscal year is the 12-month period ending September 30. For example, fiscal year 2010 began October 1, 2009 and ended September 30, 2010.

Food Stamps (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - SNAP)

See Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - SNAP (Food Stamps).

General Fund of the Treasury

Funds held by the Treasury of the United States, other than receipts collected for a specific purpose (such as Social Security) and maintained in a separate account for that purpose.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

The total market value of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States, regardless of who supplies the labor or property.

Holding-Out Marriage

A situation in which a man and woman who are not legally married to each other are living together in the same household and holding out to the community that they are husband and wife and, as such, are treated as a couple for purposes of determining eligibility and payment amount under SSI. See also Married.

Home Energy Assistance

A Federal Government block grant program that provides funds to States for energy assistance (including weatherization) to low-income households. This assistance may be provided by a variety of agencies (e.g., State or local welfare offices, community action agencies, special energy offices, etc.) and may be known by a variety of names (e.g., Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), Project Safe, etc.). See also LIHEAP - Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.


A group of two or more individuals who use a single dwelling unit as primary quarters for living and eating separate from other individuals' living units.

Household of Another

An individual is considered to be living in the household of another when the individual lives with others, does not own or rent the shelter, and does not pay a pro rata share of the household's food and shelter expenses. An individual who provides all of his/her own food, or lives in a public assistance household or in noninstitutional care, is not considered to be living in the household of another. An individual who is determined to be living in the household of another is considered to be receiving in-kind support and maintenance from that household, and his/her SSI benefit is reduced by one-third of the FBR. See also In Kind Support, One-Third Reduction Rule, and PMV In-Kind Support.

Impairment-Related Work Expenses (IRWE)

The provision that permits the exclusion from earnings of the costs of items and services which are needed in order for a disabled individual to work, which are paid for by the individual, and which are necessarily incurred by that individual because of a physical or mental impairment. These IRWEs are excluded from earnings when determining substantial gainful activity (SGA) or computing eligibility and ongoing SSI monthly payments. (See "Blind Work Expenses (BWE)" for the related exclusions for blind individuals.) See also Impairment Related Work Expenses, Substantial Gainful Activity, and Blind Work Expenses.


See--"Earned Income," "In-Kind Income" and "Unearned Income" in this topic. See also Earned Income - SSI, In Kind Support, and Unearned Income.

Individual Development Account (IDA)

A savings account which low-income individuals, including SSI recipients, may establish in order to save for purchasing a first home, meeting the costs of post-secondary education, or capitalizing a business. An individual's deposits into an IDA are matched by a sponsoring nonprofit organization, or State or local government participating in the program. See also Individual Development Account (IDA) - Overview.

Ineligible Spouse

The husband or wife of an eligible individual who is not eligible for SSI benefits. See also Married and Deeming from Spouse.


An increase in the volume of money and credit relative to available goods, resulting in an increase in the general price level.

Infrequent or Irregular Income

Income that is received either infrequently or irregularly that can be excluded from the determination of an individual's income. Infrequent means that it is not received more than once in a calendar quarter from a single source. Irregular means that an individual could not reasonably expect to receive the income. In any given quarter up to $30 of earned and $60 of unearned infrequent or irregular income is excluded. See also SSI Unearned Income - Exclusions.

Initial Determination

A determination SSA makes about an individual's eligibility for benefits or about any other matter that gives that person a right to further administrative and/or judicial review.

In-Kind Income

Income that is not cash, but is food, clothing or shelter or something an individual can use to obtain food, clothing or shelter. See also In Kind Support.

In-Kind Support and Maintenance (ISM)

Unearned income in the form of food, clothing, or shelter or any combination of these. See also In Kind Support.

Interim Assistance Reimbursement (IAR)

The process used for reimbursing for basic assistance provided by a State to an individual either while the individual's application for SSI was pending or during the period in which an individual's SSI benefits were suspended. SSA may reimburse a State that has provided this assistance. The individual's retroactive SSI payment is sent to the State as reimbursement if: (1) the State has an agreement with SSA to participate in IAR, (2) the individual has given SSA written authorization to have his/her retroactive payment sent to the State as reimbursement, and (3) the individual is found eligible for SSI benefits or has had his/her benefits reinstated for the same period of suspense. Under IAR, after States reimburse themselves from an individual's retroactive benefit, they must forward any remainder to the individual within 10 days.

Living With

A required condition for parent-to-child and spouse-to-spouse deeming. Deeming of income and resources occurs if an eligible child lives with his/her ineligible parent(s) or an eligible individual lives with his/her ineligible spouse. See also Deeming - SSI.


See "Passalong."

Mandatory State Supplementation

See "State Supplementation."


The measuring of income and resources against specified amounts as eligibility factors for certain assistance benefits. SSI is a means-tested benefit program. See also Supplemental Security Income.


The program authorized under Title XIX of the Social Security Act, which provides medical assistance to certain low-income individuals and families and certain disabled and medically needy individuals. Medicaid is administered by the States with support from the Federal Government in the form of matching grants. The Federal Government provides guidelines to the States for formulating their programs. Because these guidelines afford great leeway, Medicaid programs vary widely among the States. See also Medicaid - Overview.

Medicaid Facility

A medical treatment facility such as a hospital, extended care facility, nursing home, or intermediate care facility, where Medicaid pays more than 50 percent of the cost of a person's care. See also Medicaid - Overview.

Medical Facility

An establishment that makes available some treatment or services in addition to food and shelter to four or more persons who are not related to the proprietor.

Medically Determinable Impairment

A medically determinable physical or mental impairment is an impairment that results from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities which can be shown by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques. A physical or mental impairment must be established by medical evidence consisting of signs, symptoms, and laboratory findings-not only by the individual's statement of symptoms.

New Entrant

An SSI recipient in the first month of SSI payment receipt.


An individual who is not a United States citizen. Also referred to in welfare and immigration law as an alien. (See "Alien Lawfully Admitted for Permanent Residence," "Asylee," "Parolee," and "Refugee.")

Nonqualified Alien

A noncitizen who is not in a qualified alien category for SSI eligibility purposes. (See "Noncitizen.")


The Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance programs established under Title II of the Social Security Act.

One-Third Reduction

The reduction of an individual's SSI payment that occurs when an individual is living in the household of another. Instead of determining the actual dollar value of in-kind support and maintenance, one-third of the Federal benefit rate is counted as additional income to an individual living in another person's household for a full calendar month and receiving both food and shelter from the household. See also One-Third Rule.

Optional State Supplementation

See "State Supplementation."


The payment of more than the amount due for any period, including any amounts of Federally-administered State supplementary payments. See also Over/Under Payment.


For SSI purposes, the natural mother or father of the child, or the person who legally adopted the child, or the stepparent who lives in the same household as the child. See also Deeming from Parents.


A noncitizen, who appears to be inadmissible to the inspecting INS officer, but is allowed to enter the United States under emergency humanitarian conditions or when the noncitizen's entry is determined to be in the public interest. Parole does not constitute a formal admission to the United States and confers temporary admission status only, requiring parolees to leave when the conditions supporting their parole cease to exist. (See "Noncitizen.")


A requirement that States must meet in order to be eligible for Medicaid reimbursement. Any State making supplementary payments (see "State Supplementation") after June 30, 1977, must continue making such payments and must pass along any cost-of-living increase to the Federal Benefit Rate. Two methods are available to ensure that cost-of-living increases are passed on to the recipients.

                        Total Expenditures Method--State expenditures for supplementary payments in the current calendar year must at least equal expenditures in the preceding calendar year. If expenditures are less in the current year (shortfall), the State must increase expenditures in the next calendar year by an amount at least equal to the shortfall.

                        Payment Levels Method--States may not lower their supplementary payment for any of the living arrangement categories below their adjusted March 1983 levels. The adjusted level is the State's March 1983 payment level minus that portion of the July 1983 increase in the Federal Benefit Rate that was not attributable to the increase in the cost of living (i.e., $10.30 per individual and $15.40 per couple).

See also Medicaid - Overview, Federal Benefit Rate - SSI, and SSI State Supplements - Overview.

Payment Accuracy

The accuracy rate reflects the percent of dollars in SSI benefits that are paid correctly. One measure of the quality of the SSI program and SSA's stewardship of it, based on reviews conducted by SSA to determine the accuracy of the payment and compliance with national instructions and goals.

Personal Needs Allowance

The amount allowed for an institutionalized recipient's personal needs (currently $30). If an SSI recipient is in a Medicaid facility, the law requires that the SSI benefit be used only for the recipient's personal needs (i.e., that the institution cannot retain the benefit in repayment of the cost of the individual's care). See also SSI State Supplements - Overview.

Plan for Achieving Self-Support (PASS)

A plan that permits a disabled or blind SSI recipient to set aside income (earned and/or unearned) and/or resources for a work goal. The income and resources set aside under a PASS are used to pay for goods or services needed to reach that goal, such as education, vocational training, starting a business, or purchasing work-related equipment. Income and resources set aside under a PASS are excluded from SSI income and resources. SSA must approve an individual's PASS. See also Plan for Achieving Self-Support.

Population in the Social Security Area

The population comprised of (i) residents of the 50 States and the District of Columbia (adjusted for net census undercount); (ii) civilian residents of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands; (iii) Federal civilian employees and persons in the Armed Forces abroad and their dependents; (iv) crew members of merchant vessels; and (v) all other U.S. citizens abroad.

Presumptive Disability or Blindness

A finding that SSI payments may be made before SSA makes a formal determination as to whether or not the individual is disabled or blind. The individual's impairment must be apparent and meet specified criteria. In addition, the individual must meet all other requirements for eligibility. These payments may be made for no more than 6 months. The presumptive payments will not be considered overpayments if SSA later finds that the individual is not blind or disabled.

Property Essential for Self-Support (PESS)

The real and personal property used in a trade or business, nonbusiness income-producing property and property used to produce goods or services essential to the individual's daily activities. PESS may be excluded from resources under certain conditions. See also Property Essential to Self-Support - SSI.

Proration of Benefits

The method of computing benefit amounts in months in which the individual reacquires eligibility after a month or more of ineligibility. In such months, an individual's SSI benefit will be paid according to the number of days in the month that he/she is eligible, beginning with the first day in the month on which all eligibility requirements are met. In order to determine the benefit payable in a prorated month SSA counts the number of days an individual is eligible in the month. The amount of the individual's regular monthly payment is multiplied by the number of days for which he/she is eligible for benefits. That figure is divided by the number of days in the month for which the benefit is being determined. The resulting amount is the amount due for the prorated month. After 1996, proration for months of initial eligibility was eliminated.

Public Educational Institution

An institution that is operated by or controlled by the Federal Government, a State, or a political subdivision of a State such as a city or county for the primary purpose of providing educational or vocational training.

Public Emergency Shelter

A shelter for individuals whose homelessness poses a threat to their life or health.

Public Institution

An institution that is operated by or controlled by the Federal Government, a State, or a political subdivision of a State such as a city or county.

Publicly Operated Community Residence

A facility that provides food and shelter and some other service such as social services, help with personal living activities, training in socialization and life skills, or occasional or incidental medical or remedial care. In order to be publicly operated it must be operated or controlled by the Federal Government, a State, or a political subdivision of a State such as a city or county. The facility must serve no more than 16 residents and must be located in a community setting.

Qualified Alien

An individual who is:

                        Lawfully admitted for permanent residence under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA);

                        A refugee under section 207 of the INA;

                        An asylee under section 208 of the INA;

                        A person whose deportation is withheld under section 243(h) of the INA as in effect prior to April 1, 1997, or whose removal has been withheld under section 241(b)(3) of the INA;

                        A parolee under section 212(d)(5) of the INA for at least one year;

                        A person granted conditional entry under section 203(a)(7) of the INA as in effect prior to April 1, 1980;

                        A Cuban or Haitian entrant as defined in section 501(e) of the Refugee Education Assistance Act of 1980; or

                        A certain alien, or an alien parent of a child, or an alien child of a parent who:

o                                        Has been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty in the United States by a spouse, parent, or certain other family members the alien, parent and/or child lived with;

o                                        Is not living in the same household with the abusive individual;

o                                        Has been determined to need SSI because of this abuse; and

o                                        Has a determination from the INS for a certain change in status.

(See "Alien Lawfully Admitted for Permanent Residence," "Asylee," "Noncitizen," "Parolee," and "Refugee.")

Qualifying Quarter of Earnings

Credit for a requisite amount of earnings assigned to a calendar quarter for the purpose of determining the SSI eligibility of a lawfully admitted permanent resident. See also "Quarter of Coverage".

Quarter of Coverage

The crediting of coverage needed for insured status under the Social Security program. In 2012, a worker receives one quarter of coverage (up to four a year) for each $1,130 (was $1,120 in 2011) of annual earnings reported from employment or self-employment. This dollar amount is subject to annual automatic increases in proportion to increases in average earnings. See also the SSA topic online at:


A person who has been awarded SSI payments based on an evaluation of his/her own countable income and resources, age, and disability status. See also Supplemental Security Income.


The first step in the administrative review process if an individual is dissatisfied with SSA's initial determination. See also Flow Of Cases Through The SSA Disability Process.


A periodic review of eligibility for SSI recipients to assure that requirements for eligibility continue to be met and that payment levels are in the proper amount. Income, resources, living arrangements and other factors are reviewed. The redetermination process does not review the determination of disability. See also SSI Redetermination - Age 18 and Flow Of Cases Through The SSA Disability Process.


A noncitizen outside of his/her country of nationality who is unable or unwilling to return to his/her country of nationality or to seek the protection of that country because of persecution (or a well-founded fear of persecution) based on the noncitizen's race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. Unlike asylees, refugees apply for and receive this status prior to entry into the United States. (See "Asylee" and "Noncitizen.")

Relocation Assistance

A type of assistance provided to persons displaced by projects that acquire real property. Examples of types of reimbursement, allowances, and help provided are:

                        Moving expenses,

                        Reimbursement for losses of tangible property,

                        Displacement allowances,

                        Amounts required to replace a dwelling which exceed the agency's acquisition cost for the prior dwelling,

                        Rental expenses for displaced tenants,

                        Amounts for down payments on replacement housing for tenants who decide to buy,

                        Mortgage insurance through Federal programs with waiver of requirements that borrowers must usually meet, and

                        Replacement housing.

Representative Payee

A person who receives SSI payments on behalf of an SSI recipient. SSA will pay benefits to a representative payee on behalf of an individual 18 years old or older when it appears that such method of payment will be in the interest of the individual. A representative payee will be appointed if the individual is legally incompetent or mentally or physically incapable of managing or directing the management of his/her benefits. Also, in general, if the individual is under the age of 18, a representative payee will be appointed.

Resident of a Public Institution

An individual who can receive substantially all of his/her food and shelter while living in a public institution is considered a resident of the public institution. Generally, an individual who is a resident of a public institution throughout a month is ineligible for SSI. (See "Public Institution.")

Resident of the United States

A person who has established an actual dwelling place within the geographical limits of the United States with the intent to continue to live in the United States. (See "United States.")


The cash or other liquid assets or any real or personal property of an individual (or his/her spouse, if any) that he/she could use or could convert to cash to be used for his/her support and maintenance. See also SSI Resources - Definition.

Retroactive Payments

The SSI payments made in a month later than the month or months in which they were due. Also referred to as "past-due" benefits.

Retrospective Monthly Accounting (RMA)

The calculation method used in the SSI program to determine an individual's eligibility for each month. RMA has two parts: an eligibility determination and a payment computation. If the individual is ineligible based on the current month's factors (including the current month's countable income), no payment is due and none is paid. If the individual is eligible based on the current month's factors, payment is computed. The benefit for a month is generally based on the countable income from the second month before the current month. The basic formula is to subtract the countable income from 2 months previous from the current month's Federal benefit rate. See also Calculating SSI Cash Benefit Amount.

Section 1619(a) Status

The special SSI cash benefits provided to disabled individuals who lose eligibility for SSI benefits under the regular rules because they have earnings at the level that is ordinarily considered to represent substantial gainful activity. See also SSI Work Incentive - 1619(a).

Section 1619(b) Status

The special SSI recipient status for Medicaid purposes provided to working disabled or blind individuals when their earnings make them ineligible for regular or special cash payments. See also SSI Work Incentive - 1619(b).


An individual who has signed an affidavit of support for a noncitizen entering the country. (See "Noncitizen.")

State Supplementation

The payments made by a State or one of its political subdivisions to aged, blind, or disabled individuals.

Administration--The governmental unit responsible for administering State supplementary payments may be either a State or local agency or SSA. Under State administration, the State must absorb both program benefits and administrative costs. Under Federal administration, the State is responsible for the program benefits and pays an administrative fee for each benefit paid.

Mandatory Supplementation--The supplementary payments that are made only to beneficiaries who were converted to the SSI program from former State assistance programs at the inception of the SSI program. Mandatory minimum State supplementary payments are required to maintain the December 1972 payment levels that these beneficiaries received under the former State assistance programs. States are required to provide the supplementation to maintain their Federal matching funds for Medicaid.

Optional Supplementation--The payments made by States to help persons meet needs not fully covered by Federal SSI benefits. The State determines whether it will make a payment, to whom, and in what amount. These supplements, paid on a regular monthly basis, are intended to cover such items as food, shelter, clothing, utilities, and other daily necessities. Some States provide optional supplementary payments to all persons eligible for SSI benefits, while others may limit them to certain SSI recipients such as the blind or residents of domiciliary-care facilities, or they may extend payments to persons ineligible for SSI because of SSI income.

See also SSI State Supplements - Overview.

Statutory Blindness

See "Blind."


An unmarried blind or disabled individual who is not the head of a household, but is under age 22 and regularly attending school. Effective April 2005, a blind or disabled individual who is under age 22 and regularly attending school. See also Student.

Student Earned Income Exclusion (SEIE)

An earned income exclusion for a student with certain limitations established by regulations. For 2012, up to $1,700 earned income in a month, but no more than $6,840 per year, may be excluded. These amounts were $1,640 monthly and $6,600 annually in 2011. See also Student Earned Income Exclusion.

Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)

The level of work activity used to establish disability. A finding of disability requires that a person be unable to engage in SGA. For 2012, a person who is not statutorily blind and is earning more than $1,010 a month (net of impairment-related work expenses; was $1,000 in 2011) is ordinarily considered to be engaging in substantial gainful activity. See also SGA - SSI.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - SNAP (Food Stamps)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), under cooperative Federal-State agreements, issues SNAP benefits in the form of electronic benefit transfer, to provide nutrition for low-income families. SNAP benefits can be used only to buy food at stores authorized by USDA to accept them. See also Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) [Food Stamps] - Overview.

Supplemental Security Record (SSR)

The computerized database maintained by SSA and containing identifying information, income, resources and other eligibility factors, for all SSI recipients. The SSR includes the history of SSI payments made to an individual.


An ineligibility status which causes the nonpayment of benefits for a period of anywhere from 1 to 12 months for any of a number of reasons such as income or resources over allowable levels, absence from the United States, residence in a public institution, etc. Benefits can resume without reapplication, when all requirements for entitlement are again met. Suspense that lasts more than 12 months results in a termination of the SSI record. (Once a record is terminated, reapplication is necessary.)


See "Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)."

Temporary Absence

An individual's physical move from his/her permanent place of residence that does not constitute a change in living arrangement. In general, a temporary absence is an absence from a permanent residence which is not intended to, and does not, exceed a full calendar month.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

The State grant program of assistance for needy families established by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-193). TANF replaced the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program. See also Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) - Overview.


For an individual, cessation of benefits, which can occur for a number of reasons, including death, medical improvement, or a period of suspension lasting longer than 12 months.

Treating Source

A treating source is a claimant's own physician, psychologist, or other acceptable medical source who has provided the claimant with medical treatment or evaluation and has or has had an ongoing treatment relationship with the claimant. The treating source is usually the best source of medical evidence about the nature and severity of an individual's impairment(s). If an additional examination or testing is needed, SSA usually considers a treating source to be the preferred source for performing the examination or test for his or her own patient.

The treating source is neither asked nor expected to make a decision whether the claimant is disabled. However, a treating source will usually be asked to provide a statement about the claimant's ability, despite his or her impairments, to do work-related physical or mental activities.


A legal arrangement involving property and ownership interests. Generally, property held in a trust will be considered a resource for SSI purposes if the assets of the trust could be used for the benefit of the individual or spouse. See also SSI Resources - Definition.

Unearned Income

The income that is not earned income. Unearned income may be in cash or in-kind. Some examples of unearned income are:

                        Annuities, pensions, and other periodic payments;

                        Retirement and disability benefits;

                        Veterans', workers' and unemployment compensation;

                        Alimony and support payments;

                        Dividends, interest and certain royalties; and


See also Unearned Income.

United States

For purposes of the SSI program, the United States consists of the 50 States, District of Columbia and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Vocational Rehabilitation (VR)

The process of restoring individuals with disabilities to full capabilities. VR services are designed to provide an individual with the training or other services that are needed to return to work, begin working or to enter a new line of work. See also Vocational Rehabilitation Program.

Windfall Offset

A provision to prevent a person from receiving monthly SSI and OASDI benefits in excess of the total amount which would have been paid if the OASDI benefits had been paid when they were due rather than retroactively.

Work Incentives

Provisions in the SSI program that are intended to act as incentives for disabled or blind individuals to work. Examples of work incentives under the SSI program are:

                        Earned income exclusions,

                        Impairment related work expenses,

                        Blind work expenses,

                        PASS, and

                        Section 1619 benefits.

See also SSI Work Incentives.

See also:

Glossary - SSA Terminology


Some information for this topic was drawn from the SSA publication 2005 Annual Report of the Supplemental Security Income Program, available online at:

Additional information was drawn from introductory sections of the SSA publication Disability Evaluation Under Social Security (also known as the Blue Book) , available online at

COLA data was drawn from the Social Security Administration at:

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